Over the weekend, C-SPAN aired the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards lecture from March 28th at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The topic was “Keeping Politics out of Women’s Health” and Richards discussed the importance of getting accurate information out there to the public and to teenagers in an age when sadly our politicians are using women's health and access to birth control as a political football, and what her organization is doing to circumvent that obstruction in the age of social networking and smart phones.
And here's more from one of the media links at Princeton's site on the event -- Richards Defends “Basic Human Right” Of Access to Reproductive Health Care :
Describing the past year’s “unrelenting attacks” in this country on women seeking reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood of America President Cecile Richards spoke last week to a packed auditorium at the Woodrow Wilson School about “Keeping Politics Out of Women’s Health.” Her appearance, which was cosponsored by Princeton University’s Office of Population Research and the Center for Health and Well Being, was part of the Wilson School’s “Leadership and Governance Program,” which brings prominent policy makers to Princeton for a two to three day visit so that students can meet and learn from them.
Ms. Richards, who has led the 95-year-old organization since 2006, said that a confluence of events and issues have made this a “critical moment” in Planned Parenthood’s history. She cited the public outcry in response to Susan B. Komen For the Cure’s attempt to discontinue funding Planned Parenthood, the debates in Washington regarding contraception and religious organizations, and the current discussion about health care reform.
Social networking using texting, chatting, email, tweets, and Facebook, promises to be a powerful challenge to some politicians’ interest in limiting access to information and services, Mrs. Richards suggested. The current “revolution about how people access information is nowhere more visible than in reproductive health care,” she said.
With four million online website users, half of whom are using their cell phones to connect, Planned Parenthood’s has been a “living digital laboratory in recent years,” noted Ms. Richards. Statistics are only part of it, though. Ms. Richards described the almost palpable relief reflected in a young woman’s text response to a Planned Parenthood staffer’s answer to her question about birth control.
Currently, she reported, 15-to 24-year-olds represent over half of this country’s reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases. “This is pretty frightening,” she said, adding that a disproportionate number of them are young people of color. A smartphone represents “freedom” and is one of the most important tools being used “to keep young people from becoming statistics.”
And from the Princeton Patch -- Planned Parenthood Head: Keep Politics out of Women's Health:
Sex is everywhere, from music to movies to television, yet when it comes to sex education and reproductive health, there is a lack of credible information, says Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood.
“I don’t have to talk about sex for young people to think about it,” Richards told the crowd at Princeton University on Wednesday. “I think of my own kids who grew up watching Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, let’s just go down the list…and yet somehow we don’t want to teach sex education or provide access to good information." [...]
“The single biggest struggle is dealing with the politics of it all,” Richards said. “It’s the barrier that politics are putting ahead on the wellbeing on young people in this country and of women. Every time we take two steps forward, we take another step backwards. Partisan politics rather than public health interests are driving healthcare policy in America.”
And it is partisan politics that she's not sure make sense.
“It’s an obvious point, but you’d think if you really wanted to reduce the need for abortion in this country, wouldn’t you come volunteer at a Planned Parenthood health center because we do more every single day to avoid unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion than all these people carrying these picket and right to life signs,” Richards said.
Richards was born in Waco, Texas (“Someone had to be born there,” she said) and grew up in Dallas. She is the daughter of social activists and her mother, Ann Richards, was the first and and only female, pro-choice governor of Texas.
“Despite all the things we’ve been able to do in this country, I mean we’re at the forefront of so many things—we invented the iPad, which has revolutionized the world—we are one of the most backward countries when it comes to sexual and reproductive healthcare access,” Cecile Richards said.
She said U.S. reproductive health statistics speak for themselves:
- We have the highest rate of unintended pregnancy of any developed country in the western world.
- On average, 730,000 teens get pregnant every year; most are unintended pregnancies.
- Teens between the ages of 15 and 24 account for nearly half of the 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases a year. The cases are disproportionately high among teens of color and the poor.
- The cost of unwanted pregnancies to U.S. taxpayers is estimated between $11-$12 billion a year.
The most effective way to combat this problem is with education, Richards said, adding that teens with access to reproductive health information wait longer to have sex for the first time and are more likely to use birth control when they do.
Planned Parenthood now tries to reach teens where they are: on the web, Facebook, Twitter, texting, chat, even advertising on the MTV show “16 and Pregnant.”